Like all other Caribbean islands, Barbados is a perfect example of something great that comes in a small package. Within its 432 km2 visitors will find a wide range of diversions. After all, the island’s beaches are blessed with cool, clear water and soft, whitest sand. It possesses a long, rich history that is remarkably well-preserved. There are an abundance of gorgeous, seemingly never ending views to take in, whether you’re inland or on the coast. And it doesn’t matter if you’re in the mood for fine dining or home style cuisine, you’re almost always guaranteed be treated to delicious food. Of course, if you’re only there for a brief escape, you will only be able to scratch the surface. However, if a few days is all you’ve got, here are 8 can’t miss experiences in Barbados that need to be on your itinerary.
1. Walk Through Bridgetown
My favorite part of island living and island travel is the slow pace and natural elements, but no matter what island I visit I always make a point to experience city life. Luckily, Barbados’ capital of Bridgetown does not disappoint. Apart from the allure of duty free shopping in both small stores and large malls, Bridgetown oozes old world charm. The streets are lined with beautiful colonial buildings, some in pastel colors, others with stone facades. They house everything from government offices to museums to commercial establishments, and they’re just as interesting to learn about as they are to photograph! So get a map and take a self-guided walking tour.
2. Tour St. Nicholas Abbey
I’ll be honest, visiting sites like St. Nicholas Abbey is not easy for me. As beautiful as these estates are, its difficult to come to terms with the atrocities my ancestors had to endure in order for these establishments to operate. However, I believe lessons like these are an important part of the Afro-Caribbean experience so we made the road trip north. Although I could not sit through the entire introductory video, which features video clips of the day to the day functions of the estate during the early 20th century, I enjoyed the rest of my time there. It was very interesting to learn about the various types of rum produced; it was hella fun to sip the samples; and it was relaxing to stroll around the impeccably maintained grounds. With the dramatic, centuries-old mahogany trees lining the driveway; the well preserved antique furnishings; the fully operational mill; the adorable cafe; and even the vintage toilet (yes, the toilet), you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to pretty backdrops for the perfect photo ops!
3. Spend a Day on Carlisle Bay
It’s a massive bay with many beaches and they’re all worth a visit. Various hotels and restaurants have carved out little pieces of this prime real estate for themselves, marked by beach chairs, umbrellas, hammocks and more, but the coastline is open to all members of the public and you’re free to lounge, dip, swim and float wherever you please! If you love the crowds, the noise and an all-round spring break vibe, you might enjoy the atmosphere at The Boatyard, a great bar and restaurant that offers water sports and other amenities at a reasonable cost of $50 BBD (which you can then put toward food and drinks). However, if you prefer a more sedate environment, it’s easy to find quieter stretches of sand in between all the action. Either way, don’t let your stay come to an end without your toes haven’t felt the powdery softness of Carlisle Bay’s sand, or without taking a dip in the therapeutic salt water.
4. Enjoy Local Cuisine at Oistin’s Fish Fry
I’ve been to several fish fries across the Caribbean and none of them compare to what I experienced in Oistins. It was massive. It was well laid out. There were many options – with adequate seating. And, of course, the food was delicious! So, if you’re talking about can’t miss experiences in Barbados, Oistins on a Friday night is definitely one of them. The scene is so alive with Bajan vibes and the food is the closest thing you’ll get to true home style cooking. They say Pat’s Place is where you get the best meal, and I’d have to agree – once you don’t mind a little wait to be seated, and then another little wait for your meal. In the end you’ll be rewarded with an overflowing box of mouthwatering food from an extensive menu that includes options of fish, chicken, prawns, shrimp and lobster; with fries, macaroni pie, fried plantains and salad as sides.
5. Witness Bathsheba’s Unique Coastline
Dramatic. Otherworldly. Breathtaking. There are so many adjectives that can be used to describe Bathsheba and still they wouldn’t do it justice. How do you describe a terrain as unique as this one?Bathsheba seems almost unreal, like a scene from a Sci Fi movie. Its unconventional appearance features massive coral boulders, believed to have broken off from coral reefs that are millions of years old. The ocean’s tide has caused 360 degree erosion at the base of these rocks, giving them a unique mushroom-like shape. The scene in Bathsheba is indeed an extreme example of the power of Mother Nature but its also a source for beautiful views. While the drive is lost and you’re likely to make a few wrong turns along the way, this excursion without a doubt serves as one of those can’t miss experiences in Barbados!
6. Visit St. John’s Parish Church
We got lost a few times but we eventually made it to the majestically gothic St. John’s Parish Church. Situated high up on a hill, there are many vantage points to take in spectacular views. The original church was a wooden structure built in 1645, but it was soon replaced by the first stone structure in 1660. The building has been through quite a lot, having been destroyed by three hurricanes. The structure that stands today is the fourth incarnation, which was restored in 1836. The grounds include an immaculate cemetery with many noteworthy residents, including entire families buried in the seventeenth century, as well as the late Prime Minister of Barbados, the Honorable David John Howard Thompson.
7. Enjoy Seclusion at Shark’s Hole
Who doesn’t want to spend some time on a tiny, secluded beach? Yes, the water may be a little bit rough. Yes, it may be a little difficult to find (considering the access point is a narrow path between two homes in a residential area). No, I would not advise swimming there when the water is as choppy as it is in this photo. But sometimes, the best thing about being on the beach, is the feel of the sand beneath your feet and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. Shark’s Hole was perfect for both those things. With not a soul around, I got to lounge, prance, dance and dip my toes in this gorgeous water at my leisure and I loved it! I’ll definitely return another time and hopefully with a crew so we can set up camp for the day and just chillax.
8. Take a Road Trip North
Rent a car and journey north to take in the gorgeous landscape and various attractions. You can do this without a destination in mind, but if you’re someone who likes to have a plan, there are several stops you should make. Take the tour at St. Nicholas Abbey to sample rum and appreciate the beautiful grounds. Visit the Morgan Lewis Windmill for photos ops. Drive along Cherry Tree Hill and enjoy a view that stretches on for eternity. And plan to have lunch and do some shopping in the colorful, vibrant seaside village of Speightstown.
Like every other Caribbean island, BIM has a lot to offer. I definitely did not have enough time to explore this amazing destination and a return trip is absolutely in order. But of all the things I did while exploring this island during my brief stay, these eight items are definitely top of my list when it comes to can’t miss experiences in Barbados!
Have you ever been to Barbados? What items would make your Can’t Miss List?